Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gardiner, North Stars mutually part ways

The interlocking ‘TC’ will still adorn the fronts of their sweaters next season, but the Traverse City North Stars will have a new look in 2007-08.

Steve Fournier assumed majority ownership of the North American Hockey League franchise on Thursday as the team heads into its third season of Junior A hockey. Scott Gardiner, who guided the Stars through its first two seasons, will not return for 2007-08

“This is now a locally-owned entity,” said Fournier. “We now have the ability to streamline control a bit, to put even more of a local emphasis on the direction of the team – and that was the original intent from the day we got this team going.”

Fournier, who expects to acquire 100 percent of the ownership in the coming weeks, was part of an ownership consortium which consisted of several Florida businessmen.

Gardiner (pictured), who compiled a 36-72-12 record with the North Stars, is taking a step back from the coaching ranks for the upcoming season.

“It was a kind of mutual thing,” explained Gardiner, who says he is unlikely to seek a coaching job elsewhere for 2007-08. “The team is heading in a new direction, and we needed to have a mutual parting of ways.

“We had some big wins here, some struggles, too, but that is to be expected when you’re dealing with a new franchise. I’ve always said it takes 3-4 years to build a program, and I think in the next year or two you’re going to see this team really come on. There’s a great group of core players who are eligible to come back with a very bright future.”

The team is still in the process of replacing Gardiner behind the bench, and will likely name his successor in advance of the 2007 NAHL Draft on May 22.

“Hopefully sooner than that,” Fournier said. “The process has already begun and the decision will be made as soon as we can work out some things.”

The team is holding the first of its summer tryout camps May 11-13 at Centre ICE arena, which will culminate with a select group of players facing off in a Blue & White Game on Sunday, May 13.

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